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Starkey case: two convicted, two acquitted

Plus: major heroin ring busted in northeastern Minnesota; tenured Augsburg professor may be deported; undergrad student government at U wants ‘Coffman’ dropped from Coffman Memorial Union; and more.

The GleanGuilty and not guilty as charged. MPR’s story on the verdict in the Starkey Hearing Aid trial says, “Federal jurors in Minneapolis Thursday convicted a former hearing aid company executive and one of his business associates in a multi-million dollar fraud scheme. The jury found former Starkey Laboratories president Jerry Ruzicka guilty of eight counts of fraud. Jeff Taylor, who ran component maker Sonion, was convicted on three counts. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lola Velazquez-Aguilu said the men embezzled more than $15 million dollars over a decade. … Former executives Scott Nelson and Jeff Longtain pleaded guilty and testified against the others. The jury acquitted two additional defendants — Larry Miller and Larry Hagen.”

For the Strib, Dee DePass says, “Although the jury did not find enough evidence to convict on 38 of the 49 counts, including the most serious charges of conspiracy and money laundering, the U.S. attorney’s office said the verdict was an important one. … The jury found Ruzicka, of Plymouth, guilty of eight of the 25 counts against him, including mail and wire fraud for his role in illegally transferring $15 million in restricted Northland Hearing stock from Austin to himself and two others. Ruzicka was also convicted of wire fraud for using the sham company Archer Acoustics to siphon money from Sonion U.S. and Starkey. Lastly, he was convicted of filing a false 2014 tax return and of stealing the 2011 Jaguar that had served as his company car when he was at Starkey.” Never understood the car thing.

Says Pam Louwagie of the Strib, “Authorities in northeastern Minnesota have busted a major heroin ring that they believe spread kilos of the drug into local communities, fueling a troubling opioid crisis, law enforcement officials announced Thursday. A dozen defendants, many of them from the area, were indicted in federal court on charges of conspiracy to distribute the drug and other varied counts. Seventeen additional defendants face felony state court charges related to its sale. More arrests are expected.”

So another solution in search of a problem? In the Mankato Free Press, Kristine Goodrich reports, “While the nation’s highest court mulls the constitutionality of a Minnesota law banning political apparel from polling places, local election officials say they rarely have to ask a voter to change their attire. … Blue Earth County election judge Leigh Pomeroy said he has been following the high court debate and believes both arguments have some merit. He worries that allowing political displays could provoke confrontations between voters at polling locations. Pomeroy said he also respects the free speech argument. But he hasn’t ever heard a local voter object to the law. That makes him question whether an update to the century-old law is necessary.”

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This one of the “bad hombres”?  At MPR, Riham Feshir tells us, “Immigration officials have ordered a tenured Augsburg University professor to show up for a meeting to review his case and discuss a ‘plan for removal’ Friday, and colleagues and others who fear his deportation plan to rally around him. Mzenga Wanyama is an associate professor who teaches English, literature and African American history. He moved to the United States from Kenya in 1992 on a student visa, received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and taught at St. Cloud University before Augsburg. ‘I have a job here, I’m working, I’m almost due to retire,’ he said. ‘Being sent away to some country I have not been to in almost a quarter century doesn’t make any sense. But the ball is in their court. They could insist that I leave.’ An immigration judge denied Wanyama asylum after his visa expired.” 

Tragedy on Alligator Alley. Stribber Tim Harlow reports, “The driver of a pickup truck that crashed into a van of 15 Minnesotans after a Twins spring training game faces a battery of drunken driving charges, Florida authorities said. … The van rolled over several times, fatally wounding 18-year-old Lauren VanReese, a 2017 Blaine High School graduate from Andover. Fourteen others in the van, some as young as 4, were taken to the hospital for treatment, according to a Florida Highway Patrol crash report. Among those listed as seriously injured was Paul White, 49, who in 2013 won nearly $150 million in a Powerball drawing.”

Says Nick Ferraro for the PiPress, “A former lunchroom worker at Inver Grove Heights Middle School has pleaded guilty to sending nude photos of herself and sexually explicit texts to a student in 2014. Krista Ann Muccio, 44, of Inver Grove Heights, pleaded guilty Thursday in Dakota County District Court to one felony count of communication with a minor describing sexual conduct. … In November 2014, Muccio shared explicit photos with a 15-year-old boy through Instagram’s direct message feature and asked for ‘something in return,’ prompting the student to share explicit photos with her, according to the criminal complaint. The teenager had known Muccio as the lunch lady since the eighth grade, and she began communicating with him on Instagram in June 2014, the complaint said.”

Coffman no more? In the Star Tribune, Rilyn Eischens writes: “If the University of Minnesota undergraduate student government has its way, ‘Coffman’ will be dropped from Coffman Memorial Union. The student body voiced unanimous support for a resolution Tuesday to rename the building, which has been the target of scrutiny since a U exhibit last fall shed light on the racist practices of its namesake, former U President Lotus D. Coffman. More than 20 student groups and 16 faculty members signed the Minnesota Student Association resolution, which will now head to U President Eric Kaler for consideration.”

When pigs flame. WCCO’s Kate Raddatz has this: “Dramatic video shows a kid’s amusement ride going up in flames inside a Twin Cities mall. The motorized pig caught fire at Maplewood Mall on Monday night. No children were on the ride at the time and nobody was hurt. The general manager of Maplewood Mall says Monday night’s fire was an unfortunate, but isolated, incident. There are already new precautions in place in hopes of making sure nothing like this happens again.”